Professor Sir Stanley Wells, CBE, FRSL, is Honorary President at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. His many successful books include Shakespeare: For All Time (2002), Looking for Sex in Shakespeare (2004), Shakespeare & Co. (2006), Shakespeare, Sex, and Love (2010) and Great Shakespeare Actors (2015). He is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Stage (with Sarah Stanton, Cambridge University Press, 2002), The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare (with Margreta de Grazia, Cambridge University Press, 2010), The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography (with Paul Edmondson, Cambridge University Press, 2015) and All the Sonnets of Shakespeare (also with Paul Edmondson, Cambridge University Press, 2020). He is also the General Editor of the Oxford and Penguin editions of Shakespeare.
'It is, I think, incontestable to claim that no single person in history has done more for the study and appreciation of Shakespeare than Stanley Wells. This book asks four beguilingly simple questions which result in deeply fascinating and exciting journeys into Shakespeare's mind and practice. As you read, you are very likely to exclaim, as I did, 'Why the hell didn't my English teacher talk like this? Actors, directors, producers, lecturers, teachers, students, and all who want to know and understand more will hug this book to them.' Stephen Fry 'If this book wasn't short I wouldn't trust it. There is very little to go on in trying to find Shakespeare the man, and Stanley Wells doesn't pad anything out with wishful speculation. Having studied his works for longer than any man alive he is almost uniquely placed to do this detective work. In his tenth decade Wells has lost none of his curiosity or his eagerness to share his intimate knowledge.' Harriet Walter 'Stanley Wells illuminates and entertains – brilliant!' Kenneth Branagh 'A truly excellent book – I enjoyed every page. I am sure it will be read with appreciation by all who care for Shakespeare, or are curious about the inner turmoil of his life.' Claire Tomalin 'This illuminating compilation … helps separate the man from the myth.' Publishers Weekly 'Wells is our pre-eminent Shakespearean, and here he reflects magisterially on the topic that has absorbed his life for seven decades … [His] book offers a readable, pacy and personal introduction to Shakespeare's works, and to Wells's own important role, part-Prospero, part-Puck, in their popularisation. And if you're still wondering: what Shakespeare was really like remains, happily, a mystery.' The Telegraph 'Wells roots his picture of the playwright and poet in evidence and logic, and he's too erudite to be anything but modest in his conjectures - which is much the appeal of this book.' Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater 'Stanley Wells, the nonagenarian dean of Shakespeare scholars, condenses decades of living with Shakespeare into What Was Shakespeare Really Like? … Commonsensical, easy-going, Mr. Wells wants to encounter Shakespeare as a personality.' The Wall Street Journal 'Just as any production of a Shakespeare play reveals as much about its interpreters as its playwright, so Wells paints a portrait of himself alongside his subject. That the reader will still likely be glad of it is testament to the author's unwavering enthusiasm and insight.' Rory Kinnear, The Guardian '…secret, passionate urgings and scoldings were the seeds of [Shakespeare's] creativity. Professor Wells deserves a round of applause for bringing them into the light.' John Walsh, The Mail on Sunday